Ghoulish Harley Clarke Mansion a scare for all


The Harley Clarke Mansion is ready for Halloween. (Photo courtesy of Artists Book House)

Artists Book House is breathing new life into “The Harley Clarke Mansion” this month to celebrate Halloween in Evanston. Make your way to 2603 Sheridan Road after dark and admire the colorful Halloween artwork and installations beaming from the windows and outside of this iconic building.

Artists Ken Gerleve and Hannah Batsel created Halloween-inspired designs in shop windows. Lit from behind at night (twilight until 10 p.m.), they bring the house to life, say the artists. For curious pedestrians peering out of the ground floor windows on the east side of the mansion, haunting paintings are installed in a few of the visible interiors.

The old veranda and once metalworking shop at the southern end is easily visible from the outside, although some of the window panes have been broken by vandals and barricaded. The room has been cleaned, tidied and is now inhabited by a family of large and mysterious cast marble birds, the work of artist Margot McMahon.

But step through the heavy, sculpted front door to the west, into the graceful candlelit lobby and you are greeted by a surprising human-eyed unicorn head by artist Erin Cramer and a murder of paper crows. cutout flying the magnificent curved staircase, created by artist Beth Adler.

In a small wood-paneled room next to the entrance, several bony and gaunt “humans” are seated around a small conference table, by Gerleve. Shelves with weird and mysterious items line the walls – some are even for sale to interested visitors.

The beautiful and old dining room of the house is all cleaned, the woodwork oiled and warm again. It is, temporarily, the trophy room, with an installation of trophies of wild animals / vegan taxidermy by the artist Cramer. They are carved from handmade paper and for sale. In the center, a snack was set up, with poisoned tea, for little skeletal creatures of all kinds, even spooky insects, made by artist Linda Scholly. She created a ghostly installation in the breakfast nook of the dining room.

Mansion is preparing rooms for the Halloween celebration. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Pardoe)

Treats will be offered to costumed children near the front door of the mansion the night before Halloween, during official Halloween Trick-or-Treating hours established by the Town of Evanston. Small groups can also visit by appointment.

Niffenegger, the founder of ABH, who grew up in Evanston, studied the art of printmaking. She aspires to place many other creative outlets in the mansion. The whole house needs a lot of work before Artist Book House can realize its vision. The ghosts of the Clarke family aren’t the only ghosts that haunt the house. Hundreds of artists have floated in these rooms, climbed the stairs, worked and dreamed in this house.

To accompany the event and facilities, ABH is posting 31 days of exclusive online content on its website and social media, including a short humorous video about a medium who visits the Harley Clarke by Erika Valenciana and Heather Markey, and a conversation with a member of the board of directors. Eileen Madden and author KE Bonner on the book Moon witch.

ABH is a fledgling organization, Niffenegger’s Dream, devoted to the arts of the book: writing, reading, printing, binding, papermaking, typography, calligraphy, poetry, fiction, memory, artist books, publishing, comics, zines and more.

The mansion’s plan is to create spaces for printing, paper and bookbinding workshops, conference rooms and classrooms for teaching writing and for hosting reading groups and a stationery garden. An exhibition space, a library, a bookstore and a terrace café are also planned. Additional programming will include artist talks, author readings and poetry slams.

Volunteers and board members have spent most of the past year emptying and cleaning the 1927 English Tudor / French Eclectic lakefront mansion. The requirements of the American Disabilities Act also require elevators and an environmental study. The board is to raise funds for the renovation and improvement of the mansion.

The final cost of the renovation and upgrades is estimated to be approximately $ 8.5 million. ABH has pledged to raise $ 2 million each year for the next two, so they have two years to prove themselves to the lease holder, the town of Evanston. Artists Book House is a non-profit organization.

This Halloween show, “A Haunted House,” is the descendant of an annual show held at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, “Rags to Witches,” where Niffenegger and Gerleve have been involved in recent years. This is his second year at Evanston and, above all, it is a fundraiser that is both real and virtual. To reserve time for a small group tour, contact the Artists Book House at or [email protected]

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